The Motivation Equation
BY ALEX BARTHOLOMAUS
Understanding the medium and long-term motivation equation for your leaders and high performers
For growth-leaning CEOs, growth is the sum of retaining good people and attracting more good people. The problem is that CEOs commonly do not have the right conversation with their leaders and high performers about what motivates them.
As the CEO, have you considered how that conversation might look? Are you willing to sit down and with your high performers and ask, “Have you thought about your career as a whole? Have you accomplished everything you want to accomplish up to now?”
Most conversations between the CEO and their high performers are, “Hey, how did you do this year?” If I’m a leader who is motivated to retain my top performers, I need to examine this on a deep, meaningful, long term level, looking at the next 3-5 years.
To put myself and my organization in the best position for growth, I, as the CEO, need to be able to count on my solid base of top performers—for a lot longer-term than many contemplate. How many CEOs have thought about their leaders and the highest performers staying with them for the next 3-5 years? They probably have not had this type of conversation with themselves, let alone the performers themselves.
If a CEO does not have deep, meaningful conversations with high leaders, he or she is making some pretty brazen assumptions about those top performers and living in a dream world, quite frankly.
It boils down to two types of growth leaning CEOs: Those that are are not aware of this issue, and those that are aware of the problem yet are doing nothing about it.
What does it all mean?
In some cases, high performers are not addressing this issue internally or externally. They are not engaging themselves and asking, “Am I competent economically and professionally?” Top performers need to define their medium and long term needs, and then be prepared to communicate those to their superiors.
For most professionals and high performers, a big part of their identity is their job, the roles they attain, and the money they make. This has been true historically, but people now look for greater meaning in their work as opposed to a title or a check.
When you are a high performer in your 40s and 50s, your identity boils down to what you have done, what you want to do, and all the people you want to impact before you go. People are connected to different things. It is those connections that are important to them, and those things change over time. What you say at 30 might change by the time you are 40, and it will most certainly have evolved by the time you hit 50. It is something that people begin to reflect upon as they age and have heightened self-awareness.
The often ignored key to medium and long term growth
Are you taking too much risk in the future by not being aware of your leaders and high performers’ medium and long term motivation equation? The likely answer is a resounding, “YES.”
How confident are CEOs that their leaders or best performers will be with them in the next 3-5 years? If they say they are optimistic, on what are they basing that assumption? In most cases, this is not true confidence; it’s more presumptuous than anything. You may think you know what motivates your highest-performers, but motivation is often disguised by salary and comp to the managers or C-Suite execs who are not digging deeper.
A growth CEO is always thinking about what new product they need to develop to drive growth, but sometimes what he does not think about is how to ensure his high performing leaders and business developers are with him for the long haul.
How do you make sure that this happens? How do you know they will be with you five years from now? The answer is that you do not. However, you can improve your chances by understanding their motivation equation. Most CEOs are thinking in a more traditional sense of growth: strategy, product, market sector, industry, and other important things.
The irony of growth that is you need to make sure those people are around to drive it.